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Londoners confront letting agents and call for end to ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’

Let Down renters IslingtonOn Saturday renters from North East London gathered outside high street letting agents on Upper Street, Islington to demand an end to rip off fees, spiraling rents and exploitation of private tenants.

Local campaign groups from Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney staged a series of fun, theatrical actions outside letting agents Foxtons, Savills and Faron Sutaria. It marked the launch of the ‘Let Down’ campaign led by ‘London Renters’, a coalition of private tenant groups.

They invited members of the public to play a game of ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’ to highlight the negative impact of letting agents on the current housing crisis and the vulnerable position of tenants.

Campaigners called for:

  • An end to fees for tenants, as in Scotland

  • Proper regulation of letting agents

  • No discrimination against people on housing benefit

  • Action to bring rents down, and keep them under control

  • Longer secure tenancies

Londoners dressed as letting agents and Monopoly characters invited the public to play ‘Housing Crisis Chance’ and compete for an East London flat.

The action was led by London Renters’ own dastardly letting agent, played expertly by Danny Coakley, a member of Tower Hamlets Renters.

Click here to see Danny as the letting agent you’ll love to hate in our funny short film.

The public gathered on the streets to watch the actions and shared their own bad experiences with letting agents.

Raj Singh, a private tenant who came along to the event, said: “When I arrived at today’s action I realised just how wide the problem of letting agents in London is. A few days ago I’d have assumed that a private tenant who gets evicted has done something wrong but speaking to people today I realise people get evicted all the time for no reason.”

There were also actions against letting agents happening in Brixton, Haringey and Herne Hill as part of the ‘Let Down’ campaign. All actions were organised by London Renters, a growing movement of people affected by the unregulated private rented sector. To find out more about these actions, click here.

Why we are calling for changeIMG_8684

Most high street letting agents will charge new tenants fees of between £100 and £500 for services such as reference checks, conducting an inventory or general ‘admin’ fees. It is thought the actual cost of a tenant reference check is between £5-£20.

After moving in, many private tenants will also find themselves hit with fees of around £100-£300 to renew their tenancy agreement or check out of their property.

In Scotland, letting agents fees are illegal. Last autumn the law was tightened to crack down on agents charging tenants fees unlawfully.

Campaigners are calling for an end to discrimination against people on housing benefit. In 2012, researchers in Hackney found that less than 1% of private rented properties were available to people on housing benefit – either because they were unaffordable or because letting agents and landlords refused to let to housing benefit tenants.

Letting agents also have a significant role to play in the steep escalation of private rents. Shelter found that a fifth of landlords had increased their rents because letting agents had encouraged them to.

Meanwhile the opulence of high street letting agents such as Foxtons knows no bounds. Their fleets of branded minis and glimmering shop fronts with designer interiors leaves us more than slightly suspicious about what these “admin fees” are really being spent on. In Brixton and Islington on Saturday, branches of Foxtons thought nothing of splashing out on private security guards to man the doors in anticipation of our peaceful protests.

London Renters: We are a coalition of private tenants groups as including –
Tower Hamlets Renters:
http://towerhamletsrenters.org/
Digs:
https://hackneyrenters.org/
Haringey Housing Action Group:
http://haringeyhousingaction.org.uk/
Islington Private Tenants:
http://islingtonprivatetenants.org.uk/

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5 thoughts on “Londoners confront letting agents and call for end to ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’

  1. Pingback: Boris! Time to cap rents and stop retaliatory evictions | HackneyRenters

  2. “No discrimination against people on housing benefit”

    It might surprise you to learn, some letting agents specialised tenants on housing benefit. Although, the housing benefit paid the rent in arrears rather then advance, they were “kind-of” regular. Despite its many problem, it was a system that worked.

    The Labour Government changed the system, they decided the tenants should receive the rent directly. It was up to the tenants, if they wanted to pay their landlord or not. The tenants would spend their money on other things. One council was saying they would use the money to pay off car loans before paying the landlord. Many of these specialist letting agents found many of their housing benefit tenants were in arrears.

    The very letting agents who specialised in housing benefit tenants, were recommending to their landlords, to switch to working professionals. Some housing benefit tenants were playing games, they would have their phones off, there is no communications why the rent has not been paid. Time wasted on writing letters, ringing the door bell – has the tenant done a runner?

    To add insult to injury, the various anti-landlord campaigners are referring to ‘housing benefit’ as ‘landlord benefit’. I found this to be quite ignorant. Since the banking crisis in 2007, the LHA rate has been largely unchanged for past 6 years. Other costs are going up. So is it fair to ridicule landlords who have long term tenants, where rents have been largely unchanged since 2007?. The market rent has gone up. So instead of thanking ‘current’ landlord who have long term tenants on housing benefit. All I can read about it ‘greedy landlords’ and ‘rent going up’. But its not an entirely fair picture?

    There are other reasons not to take on housing benefit tenants…..

  3. I woudl like to save tenants letting agency fees. Where shoudl I advertise?. I used to use gumtree (which was fantastic when new), but gumtree has become a magnet for fraudster tenants.

    A couple of years ago, forced to go to a letting agent…. both the tenant and I lost out…

  4. Pingback: Great day of action! | Let Down

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